The Oscar Pistorius trial, mental health and the ignorance of the masses

I actually can’t believe that I am writing about Oscar Pistorius and his trial. I have been avoiding any reports on it because the way people have been treating it as entertainment is enough to enrage me. Unfortunately it’s been nearly impossible as everywhere you go it’s on TV, radio, front pages of magazines and newspapers, twitter, facebook and in every conversation. If you’re not South African, you can read all about the trial online if you want to. However, this post is not about the actual trial. It’s about him going for psychiatric observation and people’s reaction to it. And basically me ranting over how stupid people can be.

Some background: About a month ago Oscar went for psychiatric observation to determine whether he suffers from a mental illness, specifically GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) and whether or no he could distinguish right from wrong. The report came in and it was determined that Oscar did not suffer from mental illness at the time. However, what most people neglect to add when they talk about this around the water cooler is that after the incidence he suffers from PTSD and is of committing suicide.

Let me just state up front that I am not condoning murder. What he did was WRONG, no matter how you look at it. What gets to me is how people are now saying, “Ja so he’s not mad hey! chuckle chuckle chuckle” and “apparently he’s going to kill himself now, chuckle chuckle chuckle.” I know I am over sensitive when it comes to issues surrounding mental health. I find these kind of statements incredibly upsetting and insensitive. I suffer from mental illness after all and the only one allowed to call me mad, is ME. Suicide is serious. PTSD is serious. Murder is serious. Human suffering, even when broadcast onto international television, is REAL. What these statements demonstrate is that the masses, your average person, still thinks that mental illness is not real. That it is a joke and something reserved for the crazies in institutions who have to wear straitjackets and have to be locked in padded rooms. They see it as something removed from themselves, while they are surrounded by people suffering from mental illness every day.

On the one hand I feel like I need to speak up when I hear things like this being said, but on the other hand, what is the point of fighting a losing battle, at work, with people who are too set in their ways to change their minds and of then opening myself up to being talked about in the same way? It just blows my mind that people can still be so ignorant in this day and age. I sometimes feel like I’m just screaming this silent scream over and over again.

Any thoughts on how to tackle this problem?

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14 thoughts on “The Oscar Pistorius trial, mental health and the ignorance of the masses

  1. I understand your anger. With me my annoyance is at the other end of the spectrum. It seems like so many people claim to have a mental illness whenever they are in trouble, I am thinking of Oscar and Dewani. I might be wrong and they could be telling the truth but it just seems so convenient. Their declarations of being mentally unfit undermine the struggles of people who are trying to survive their mental illnesses on a day to day basis.

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  2. You would completely shock them if you stood there and said that you has a mental illness. They wouldn’t know where to look. They would be embarrassed. They would be forced to re-look a their prejudices. They would think twice for making any sort of ignorant comment again (hopefully).

    This is no worse that watching a public hanging or seeing Christians slaughtered at a Roman circus. Mankind hasn’t really changed.

    On the other hand, maybe we can petition for all people of a below average IQ and EQ to be sterilised, so that they cant breed more ignorance into the world…

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    1. The problem that even if you tell people you have a mental illness because of the way it has all been trivialised people will think you are just saying it for the sake of it. But yeah Carla, you might be on something there.

      The thing is that for me it just seems like illnesses are taken so lightly nowadays.

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      1. That is because we don’t understand them The first time I was given antidepressants, no-one insisted that I get counselling or a support group, or even explained to me what depression was. I was freaking petrified. There is just not enough education out there. Or open communication. We are lucky we can talk to each other about this stuff, and it makes we wonder how t open the dialogue with people who don’t understand mental illness.

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      2. Yes Carla you’d think that at least doctors would attempt to explain to people what they are going through. The first time I went to a doctor about my mental health issues he just told me that I probably have cyclothymia and sent me on my way with a 6 month script for anti-depressant. He did not explain to me what cyclothymia is at all. He also just sent through scripts without following up and I didn’t think about going to see him again because I wasn’t depressed anymore. Meanwhile I was in a total hypomanic state CAUSED by the anti-depressants he so freely and thoughtlessly prescribed.

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  3. What I have learned the last two years of being “out” about having a mental illness is that there is no way you can predict how a person will react when you tell them about your experiences. Personally, I’ve been really shocked with the attitudes of the people around me, and though I’ve met one or two assholes, most people (and especially those who already had a sense of respect for me before learning about my diagnosis) have been extremely curious, supportive, and a few have even admitted to having experienced symptoms like depression or having a family member with a diagnosis. It is more common than people believe.

    I don’t think we can expect people to understand mental illness when they have never had a serious conversation about it with anyone… especially a positive conversation. I guess what I mean is attacking someone for being ignorant is less likely to produce empathy than a genuine statement about how their words and actions make you feel and why you feel that way.

    Good luck!

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    1. You are very right Sarah. The way the media portrays mental illness doesn’t help either and you’re right that if people have never had a positive conversation with anyone and tried to walk in someone with mental illness’s shoes, they won’t understand.

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  4. Today I’m having a really bad day, so my solution to the problem of ‘normal, balanced’ people not understanding bi-polar is: kill all the b**tards!! As you can see, not a normal or balanced reaction!!
    To answer your question seriously, or at least as seriously as I can today, is it is IMPOSSIBLE to affect change in everyone or even anyone who has not struggled with bi-polar or depression. All we sufferers can do is hope to surround ourselves with people who do understand us, and our issues and our moodswings and love us anyway: The “rest of the people” who don’t mean anything to us, and whose idea of sufferers of depression or bi-polar are ‘we are mad’ are just that ‘the rest of the people’ and not important. They are only important if we make them important, what they think will only hurt if we let it and while the utopia would be for everyone and anyone to truly understand what mental illness is and how it actually can destroy us, they won’t – those who have never struggled with bi-polar or depression have not a clue, they never can!

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    1. You are very right about that and make a good point that it will only be important if I allow it to be important. The key is really to pick your battles and ignore the rest, but especially when I am in an agro state it’s very difficult for me to let anything go.

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  5. I find that when I encounter any kind of prejudice, it’s best to act dumb and ask the person what they mean. Why is it funny that he’s mentally ill? I don’t get it, do you mean Jews are stingy? So, you think black people aren’t intelligent? Basically repeat their words back to them, and ask them to explain them. This has to be done very calmly and with a light touch. Often you manage to nicely embarrass people which I enjoy.

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